By: Allison O’Brien
The first Student Union Council Meeting of the year took place on Sunday, September 9th. The meeting covered executive membersâ€™ summer reports and their plans for the year, the SUâ€™s advocacy priorities for the year, updates on the SUâ€™s three businesses The Fox and Crow, Nexus, and The Cadre, and much more.
President William McGuigan gave his summer report first. He mentioned that a large portion of his summer was spent on the renovations to The Fox and Crow, to make sure the opening ran smoothly. He also mentioned his efforts in collaboration with SU Director of Communications Sweta Daboo to help launch the new student support program, Aspiria.
McGuigan travelled with VPAX Emma Drake to Ottawa in May for the Canadian Alliance of Student Association (CASA)â€™s Foundations Conference and to British Columbia in July for the Policy & Strategy Conference. There, McGuigan was elected as treasurer of CASA, and CASA approved its new policy themes for the year; they are: financial aid for grads, undergrads and college students, skills and employment, and international students.
McGuigan also travelled to Ottawa for a CFS conference with Drake in June. He mentioned some substantial changes within the organization, such as expelling 12 BC-CFS schools and having one annual conference instead of two to be more financially sustainable.
Lastly, McGuigan spoke about his efforts this summer to bring voter registration and election booths to campus for this fallsâ€™ municipal election, and his coordination with Drake, The Guardian and Eastlink to host a televised mayoral debate on October 24 at UPEI.
All four executives and Director of Communications Sweta Daboo attended the Maritime Student Conference at Mount Allison University this summer. The conference mostly dealt with advocacy issues and how to advocate together as a region.
Vice President Student Life Sarah Maceachern then took the floor. She said that she started in May by creating an overall structure of the campaigns and wet/drys for the year, and hired new clubs and campaigns coordinator Tessa Rogers. Maceachern listed some events that have been planned for the year, including Consent Week, Environmental Week, Diversity Week, and Love and Sex Week. She is also working on creating Mental Health Mondays, where the SU will be hosting an event on the first Monday of every month.
She also spoke about attending the Canadian Organization of Campus Activities (COCA) national conference in Fredericton with Sweta Daboo. There, Maceachern booked several new acts for the year. Maceachern also listed several initiatives to try and engage with clubs, such as making a club membership card and asking clubs to update their contact info and a description of their club.
Vice President Finance John Ployer spoke next. Ployer attended the Annual Campus Trust Retreat. There, Ployer was elected to the Board of Directors, and cited the importance of health and dental insurance to students as a reason for running.
In regards to SU businesses, Ployer mentioned that he worked with The Cadre Editor-in-Chief Allison Oâ€™Brien and Ellen Andrews from Hi There Designs to secure a new website for The Cadre, along with creating advertising space on the website and hiring a team of editors. He also mentioned that he wants to perform a Review Year for the Yearbook to see how the Yearbook can be improved.
VPAX Emma Drake took the floor next. Drake talked about leftover projects from last year, including making recommendations for the final draft of the UPEI Sexual Violence Prevention and Response policy, the per-student mental health funding on campus, and updating policy regarding Students Opinion of Teaching Surveys (SOTS).
Next, Emma talked about the various policy developments that she is working on, including affordable housing and international student support. The SU conducted an affordable housing survey over the summer, and has been conducting research into international student support opportunities – something Drake identifies as being a new research area.
Each executive presented their executive mandates, which are essentially a list of goals for the executivesâ€™ year in office.
Drakeâ€™s presentation focused on three points. The first point was Get Out the Vote, a student campaign that encourages students to vote in elections and educates on the importance of their say. Drake said that the campaign would take a pledge to vote approach and happen 1-2 weeks before the election. Drake is also working with President Will McGuigan and Elections PEI to offer voter registration on campus, and host a mayoral debate on campus in collaboration with Eastlink and The Guardian.
Her second point is to create a working group to discuss what barriers and concerns international students are facing at UPEI, with a goal of writing dedicated international student support policy.
Her third point is the Stride program, a student engagement program that was started at the University of Alberta and aims to provide tools and support to underrepresented groups that wish to run in Student Union elections. Drakeâ€™s goal is to put on a one day skills bootcamp in the winter for potential candidates in spring elections.
Drake also identified four policy priorities for the UPEISU for the 2018-19 year. They are: affordable housing, affordable textbooks, experiential education, and international student support.
McGuigan spoke about making sure that The Fox and Crow project is successful and meaningful in the fall and winter and updating the flags in the Student Union building. He also discussed promoting the Aspiria program to make sure that students were using it.
McGuigan was more focused in his mandate on the overall image of the SU, including increasing transparency by making executive evaluations made public and updating the UPEISU Strategic Plan which expired last year. He also wants to update the constitution, bylaws, and policies of the organization.
Lastly, McGuigan spoke about his work with Elections PEI to create voting booths on campus for the upcoming municipal and provincial elections.
Maceachernâ€™s mandate included planning more diverse events such as tribute nights, a silent disco, live bands, and an international night. She also said that she has been working on spicing up events such as Back to School Pub, where there was a sponsored barbecue and a hydration station. She is also focusing on sustainability by creating an Environmental week on campus and making sure that the Student Union building is more green friendly. Maceachern said that she will also hold a clubs and societies fair in January.
Ployerâ€™s plans for the year includes improving human resources and policies in the Student Union by improving the review of staff process and creating a HR/Workers Rights board for the SU staff.
On the business side of things, Ployer plans to work with The Cadre to increase readership and volunteers, along with selling advertising space to companies so that The Cadre can make money. He also plans to perform a critical review of Nexus, UPEIâ€™s yearbook, to determine itâ€™s future.
VPFA John Ployer and VPAX Emma Drake both mentioned during their summer reports that they had met with HR Atlantic as representatives of the SU in light of the investigation into claims made by former Vice President Student Life Megan Rix in the spring of 2018.
Ployer mentioned that HR Atlantic had produced a report with seven recommendations in response to the investigations, and that all seven recommendations would be implemented.
VPAX Emma Drake presented four policy updates to council that required approval. These included implementing a 12-month course calendar, providing credit for the English Academic Preparation Program, exempting parental income as an asset for student loan assessments, and using open educational resources in all first-year classes. All four policy updates were approved without opposition.